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Telemedicine lawyer at ATA 2016 says acceptance growing

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Telemedicine has come a long way in terms of acceptance, but reimbursement and cross-state licensing issues are still impeding growth, a legal expert says at ATA 2016.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sitting down with Nadia de la Houssaye at ATA 2016 is like taking a guided tour of the evolution of telemedicine.

In this podcast recorded at ATA 2016, de la Houssaye, a telemedicine lawyer with Jones Walker LLP in Lafayette, La., reflects on how far the industry has come since she founded a teleradiology network 20 years ago.

Events like ATA (American Telemedicine Association) 2016 Conference and Trade Show draw nearly 6,000 people and dozens of vendors, and major healthcare systems, such as the Mayo Clinic and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, are practicing telemedicine.

In some ways, though, as de la Houssaye reflects, there are more regulatory and licensing hurdles to overcome now than in decades past.

Nadia de la Houssaye, telemedicine lawyer, Jones Walker LLPNadia de la Houssaye

"Today, we have a tremendous amount of these arbitrary barriers that are [impeding] the growth of interstate telemedicine," she says in the podcast. "We need to eliminate these artificial barriers at the licensing level and for reimbursement."

De la Houssaye cites two major proposed bills that would put telemedicine more or less on an equal footing with physical, location-based healthcare: the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act and the Telehealth Enhancement Act.

One big telemedicine growth area is remote patient monitoring (RPM) -- with many vendors showcasing RPM systems at ATA 2016 -- yet Medicare generally does not reimburse for most forms of healthcare delivered at the home, she notes.

On a more positive side for telemedicine companies and practitioners in Texas, where state regulators last year significantly restricted the ability of physicians to prescribe drugs remotely, de la Houssaye says is it quite possible those rules could be reversed in court.

Texas is also home to Teladoc Inc., one of the country's biggest telehealth providers, which has a pending lawsuit against the Texas Medical Board.

As for HIPAA, de la Houssaye says telemedicine vendors and practitioners should pay close attention to its privacy and security provisions, which apply equally to telemedicine and physical, location-based medicine.

Companies and doctors should also ensure quality assurance and control in the practice of telemedicine, she says.

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